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Specific hints and tips for proofreading your own thesis, essay or dissertation

Posted on 11th August 2013

I know I've written a blog about this before, but with the ever-increasing cost of living and studying, and realising that I use certain tricks when proofreading work for students, I thought I'd share a few more ideas about how you can proofread your own work if you can't afford (or don't have time) to get it professionally checked.

  1. Print the reference section out and even if you're checking the rest of the work on-screen, tick off every item on the reference list as and when you encounter it in the main body of the thesis/dissertation. This will ensure you won't have an in-text reference and omit it from the reference section, which technically isn't something a proofreader should check anyway as it often violates university guidelines. There are a plethora of online tools that can help you do this (ReferenceChecker is one example) but if you don't have time to get to grips with new software, the option above works well.
  2. If you just have one final big project to complete, use the free 30-day trial for PerfectIt. You'll need to have a good grasp of English to use this and it won't replace a full proofreading service, but at a basic level it will pick up on inconsistent spellings, hyphenation, capitalisation, formatting and common typos.
  3. Use Word's Find function with the highlighting option turned on and specifically search for words you know you often misspell/mistype. Examples of this could be form/from, their/there/they're or your/you're so you then focus just on those words as you go through the file and check that they are correct in each instance.
  4. Do run Word's spellcheck, but don't take it as Gospel. It doesn't always work, can't pick up on context in every instance and in particular may not get the grammar suggestions right but even if it just corrects some basic typos it's worth the quick check.
  5. Again, assuming you're working in Word, use the basic Find and Replace function to convert double spaces to single spaces and check that you've been consistent with style of quotation marks.
  6. Finally, don't forget to refer to your university's submission guidelines and make sure you've followed the format, reference system, word count limit, etc. details that are required at your particular institution.

Hopefully these ideas will help you finalise your work before submission. In fact, even if you plan on paying a proofreader, if you do all of the above before sending a sample to get a quote, the chances are the cost will be lower as the proofreader will see that lots of these items have been done.

If you have any ideas or hints and tips to add to this, why not let me know on my Facebook page...

Written by Kate Haigh.